How to File a Civil Suit for Property Damage

By Don Davis - Updated June 05, 2017
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Civil suits are arguments that people ask a court to decide. Every civil case has two parties. Depending on the suit and the jurisdiction, a plaintiff, petitioner or complainant files the lawsuit that makes an accusation and asks the court for a remedy or a solution. The respondent or defendant may either defend himself against that accusation or ignore it. If he ignores the accusation, he loses the civil suit by default. How the court decides will be largely determined by precedent, which means the way other courts ruled in similar lawsuits – like your property damage suit.

Document the property damage and how much it will cost to fix. Document that the person or corporation you intend to sue is responsible for this damage to your property.

Seek written statements from anyone who has personal knowledge about the damage and is willing to testify on your behalf.

Send the person you want to sue a registered letter demanding reimbursement for the damage. Briefly state for the record when, where and how the damage occurred, why you blame him for the damage and how much it will cost to fix.

Go the clerk’s office in your county courthouse and file suit in either Small Claims Court or Superior Court. Plaintiffs and respondents usually represent themselves in small claims, which usually seek less than $5,000. Civil suits that seek greater damages usually require the assistance of an attorney.

Fill out a Complaint form and a Summons form. Depending on your jurisdiction and the amount of damages you seek in your suit, you may be required to complete additional forms. You do not have to fill out the forms at the clerk's office; you can take them home and the clerk must tell you what forms you need.

File your complaint with the same court clerk after you complete it. Pay a filing fee that varies greatly from court to court.

Serve the respondent with a summons that notifies him that you are suing him and attach a copy of your complaint. The steps you must take to complete process of service varies. In some cases the court clerk will charge you a fee and mail the summons to the respondent. In other cases you must hire a process server to serve the respondent with the summons.

About the Author

Don Davis has been a professional writer since 1977. He has had numerous writing jobs, including writing news and features for the "Metrowest Daily News" and "Los Angeles Herald-Examiner." Davis has a Bachelor of Arts in English and history from Indiana State University.

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